Restoring Yellowed Computer Plastics


Many of our cherished computers and consoles from the past have not stood up well over time. It’s not the hardware as much as the color. From Commodores, Apples, to Super Nintendos, the machines have slowly drifted towards a sickly yellow and even brown. The culprit appears to be the fire retardant chemicals used in the plastics. Amiga enthusiasts have spent the last year perfecting a technique that restores the plastic of these machines to its original splendor. Dubbed ‘Retr0brite‘ it’s a gel made from hydrogen peroxide, xanthan gum, glycerine, and ‘Oxy’ style laundry booster. The results are really impressive. If you do start restoring your own machines, caution should be used since it requires strong concentrations of hydrogen peroxide typically employed in bleaching hair.

[via Waxy]

39 thoughts on “Restoring Yellowed Computer Plastics

  1. use any plain white toothpaste for the same results (have tried it on yellowing stuff and it works)
    apply toothpaste, gently rub in… wipe off with damp cloth .. voila

  2. all i can say is wow, i’m not that into oldder stuff but its going to be really sweet to have the only perfect looking nes in town. maybe my wife will even let me put it out next to the television again :)

    many thanks to the the folks involved in the project you have brought a great idea to the world

  3. I love fusion, I’ve used it on some PVC and impact plastics. It’s left my cases and my laptops looking cherry and the color selection is great. It’s no powder coat but for around $4 and no sanding you’re not losing.

  4. @ oneindianguy – Plain white toothpaste will work that has hydrogen peroxide in it (most do), as it is (well was now) the key ingredient to get discoloration out of teeth.

  5. i got a super nintendo around the same time my cousin did. I cleaned it with simple water and a cloth about once a week, and mine stayed gray while my cousin’s turned urine yellow.

    did anyone at the time know that the plastic would change color with age?

  6. “i got a super nintendo around the same time my cousin did. I cleaned it with simple water and a cloth about once a week, and mine stayed gray while my cousin’s turned urine yellow.”

    sounds like somebody needs a life (ignore the irony of this post):
    17 yeras * 52 weeks * 2 minutes = 30 hours cleaning… and now your cousin can just spend 2 minutes using this h202 compound and get it the same color as your nintendo

  7. Actually, I associate the off brand ABS yellow with classic Macs, like my LCII case sitting under my monitor right now (Will be a case mod for a thinclient i have [wish I could afford a pair of mac mini’s or appletvs to case mode into it instead]), so I’m not “”restoring”” them.

    Now, an old SNES? hell yea. That grey was classic.

  8. Things that have worked for me in the past:

    Simple Toothpaste,
    “Whitening” Toothpaste,
    A hand towel with dish soap (the one that looks like a paste and comes in plastic containers),
    Pledge (all surfaces line).

    Depending on weather conditions and exposure to the sun, your plastics will become yellow with time.

    It does matter if you have smoke around your stuff (i.e. if you smoke), tar buildup will travel around and deposit on any surface around.

    With time plastic will become brittle and easy to break (this is specially true on hardware such as a Commodore) so be extra careful when disassembling.

    I think it would be cool if somebody made replacement shell casings for old electronics (clear cool blue atari? pink commodore? jet black SNES?).

  9. I can’t tell you how eternally useful this will be, I’ve wanted to restore that snes for years, and no site has offered anything short of destorying the plastic..

  10. @_matt: (“did anyone at the time know that the plastic would change color with age?”)

    Plastic engineers are notorious for being conservative about swapping out substances in well-known formulations because you often don’t know how they’ll react over time, even with simulated aging.

    I sat in on a lecture discussing environmental impacts of certain plastic additives, and the prof showed results of a compound which looked great in the lab but still got a “f’ that” response from industry because they’d been using the other one for years and years.

    So, I have no idea; but I wouldn’t be surprised if the flame retardant additive was the result of regulations and it was the best they could do at the time.

  11. This is like something off an Anarchy BBS from the 80’s. Or the scene in the motel in Terminator when they start making pipe bombs.

    Peroxide, Thickeners, UV Lamps and Tin Foil

    So many, many uses.

    I never thought cleaning C64’s and such was one of them.

    PS: if you make this stuff, please, please, please dont just dump the used stuff down the drain.

  12. It’s pretty funny that it took these guys all that time to figure it out. All July? Come on. . Even I figured this out in a few minutes years ago when I wanted to restore my NES. //Be careful for the logos though, H202 can turn that stuff pink.
    Anyway. The gel feature is the epic feature of there product though. It’s awesome. I just think the H202 and the oxygen cleaner (I used Ajax Oxygen bleach cleaner on some surfaces when I used to do this.

  13. “PS: if you make this stuff, please, please, please dont just dump the used stuff down the drain.”

    Yes, go to a hazardous waste facility and watch them laugh their asses off at you after you pay them to take hydrogen peroxide off your hands.

    The ingredients of oxyclean aren’t much worse, and there isn’t going to be enough dissolved solid from the plastic to matter.

    Seriously, you’re going to go into some paranoid “all chemicals are dangerous!!!!!1” crap, worry about the hormone pills, birth control rings, and antidepressants that every whore in the country is flushing down the toilet, because they’re not filtering it out at the water treatment plant.

    1. Uhh what? Are you saying that everyone on birth control is a whore? That’s…a bizarre claim, even ignoring the women who have to take the pill to prevent ovarian cysts. o_O

  14. The issue of “what we bury in the environment” is way more grim than most people can imagine.

    There was an elegant solution for industrial plants and cities:

    The law mandated the intake be downstream from their outflow. If you put it in the will drink it. A truly neat behavior modification Hack..

  15. i have 4 c64`s all in great condition without any discolouring :) all in the box with instructions!
    Oh well guess you guys didnt quite look after them poor old c64`s as good as i did :D

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